Tuesday, May 29, 2012

New Regimen for Piano

My return to the piano, begun about a year ago, has continued largely without break. In addition to picking up a lot of the pieces I used to know, I have learned a new piece: Beethoven's Sonatina in G. More recently, I had felt my fingers getting 'mixed up' or even feeling stiff as I was playing. It was very frustrating, especially in some of the more difficult passages where I needed to be nimble. Right about that time, I went away on vacation and then more recently I was sick for a week and a half. So my practicing was curtailed for a good period.

What I found upon returning was that my playing was more relaxed, a bit slower, and the 'mixed up' stiff feeling in my fingers is completely gone. I think what was happening is that I was blowing through these pieces I was familiar with. I was 'practicing', not playing. It brought to mind something that I read from a Zen master who was explaining the purpose of Zen studies. To explain, he used a music metaphor and said (I'm paraphrasing): "the purpose of listening to a piece of music is not to get to the end." Meaning that it's the music itself we enjoy, and the completion of the task (listening) is not the point.

I think this goes for playing music as well. I was getting to much into 'practicing' and playing all these songs a certain amount of times each week. What was happening is that it was becoming a task, not a performance, and I was playing faster as a result. This is what led to my hands getting gummed up. Now that I'm really playing again, the legato lines are nicer, the errors are far fewer, and the MUSIC is back in what I can hear myself playing.

I've decided to alter my practice regimen as an experiment. The pieces that I have down, I am going to limit myself to playing once a week or when the mood strikes me. The new piece and the Diabelli sonatina I'm still relearning will be the core of my practice, plus a new sonatina by Clementi (totally new not picking it back up) and Bach's Air for G (again totally new piece). I'm also not going to relearn any more older pieces. The goal is to keep my grasp of the material I have relearned because I do like it, but to put the focus on picking up new material. Seems like trying new material is the best way to challenge myself as a performer and grow, not slogging through material I have already learned.

Practicing this way seems to take a weight off me. It's not that it's easier really. It's probably actually harder because I'm working with material I'm not familiar with and trying to learn it. However, there is a freshness in my practice sessions now. I feel like I'm learning...and that it is what this is supposed to be about.

We'll see how it goes.

No comments: